By now, you’ve heard the news, along with the rest of the country, about the national Boy Scouts of America filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. “The Boy Scouts are bankrupt!” made its way across the country, along with allegations and suspicions and lots of finger-pointing.
While it’s bad news for our movement here in the US, it’s not entirely unexpected. We’ve known for months that the BSA retained a bankruptcy law firm to explore the Chapter 11 avenue. The US court system refers to Chapter 11 as “reorganization”, meaning that the corporation voluntarily petitions the court for the ability to restructure its debt while operating under the supervision of a court-appointed trustee.
In the case of the BSA, the reorganization was undertaken to be able to manage the pending and future cases of alleged child abuse against BSA volunteers and the way the organization handled them. The expected outcome is to be able to keep the Scouting program alive for years to come while allowing victims to be equitably compensated for abuse that they suffered in the Scouting program in years past.
But what do we tell the children – and their families – about what’s going on?
The question is bound to be asked of us volunteers by concerned families who wonder if the Boy Scouts is just going to vanish. In fact, this step was taken so that wouldn’t happen. A key point is that Scouting is carried out mainly by local councils. Our councils are legally separate, distinct and financially independent organizations. each with their own board of directors and leadership, financial structure, revenue and expenses, and properties (such as camps) and operate under a charter from the national organization. Think of it as a franchise to provide Scouting within their geographic area. Council revenue is almost always generated locally – camp fees, popcorn sales, corporate and individual donations – and that money is spent locally to provide Scouting to the units and youth they serve. Camp upkeep, staff salaries, services for units and volunteers, and events such as camporees and programs are examples.
So if asked, tell your families that Scouting goes on. Packs, troops and crews continue to meet. Young people can still join and adults can still volunteer. Scouts continue to have adventures and earn advancements. District and council events will go on as planned. Service centers and Scout Shops continue to operate. Countless service projects will be done to enrich the communities in which we operate. Funds raised through Friends of Scouting stay with the local council, and restricted donations and bequests, past, present and future, can only be used for their designated purpose.
Most importantly, Scouting is safer now than it ever has been. Over many years, we’ve developed some of the strongest expert-informed youth protection policies found in any youth-serving organization. Councils take youth protection extremely seriously and do their part to help keep kids safe. Youth Protection training, required of every volunteer before he or she can register and work with youth, is constantly evolving and must be taken again periodically in order to remain current. At present, it’s every two years, but it’s expected to become an annual requirement sometime in the future.
The national organization has established a dedicated restructuring website, www.BSArestructuring.org. This site includes a helpful Resources page, where you will find a short video explaining what Chapter 11 means for Scouting. The site’s Milestones page will be your best source for the latest updates throughout this process. And a FAQ document answers many common questions related to the bankruptcy proceeding and what the BSA is doing to support the victims of past instances of abuse. Please share these resources with your families so they can understand the process.
And tell the children to just have fun, enjoy Scouting and Do Your Best!
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